Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A double espresso and the FT: Can newspapers survive?

Photograph taken by M'reen

From a Turbo Charged Reading perspective:
In order to read a full sized newspaper you may have to stand up and back away a little
in order to see both pages or you could train yourself to see the four corners of one page
and then slide across to the four corners of the next page.
In full TCR mode TCR the full paper for a couple of reasons; firstly you are educating
your body, your mind and your emotions and energy to read in this way
and secondly you never know when that unusual spontaneous bit of information
might gain you brownie points.
After TCR the whole paper, then go back and read the articles that interest you
in the prescribed manner – omitting the memory stage unless it is relevant
for some reason.
When you return home go through the newspaper again and it will probably feel like
old news as during the day you’ve probably had conversations or heard the radio etc.
Also the major news stories evolve over a number of days and this is like building up
your understanding and recall in layers; therefore a story that you may not yet have paid particular attention to will have its previous day’s information stored in your innermind.
Just to prove your success, if you have a week old newspaper that you each word read
then review that paper and see how much you actually recall and compare that
with a week old newspaper that you Turbo Charged Read.


I am not a reluctant adopter of new technology, as in many ways publishing apps can
significantly enhance and enrich readers’ experience above and beyond what is possible in print. Newspapers and magazines can now be easily accessed through tablets and e-readers
such as Kindles and iPads and in most instances, a greater depth of knowledge
and quality of entertainment can be achieved through such platforms.

That said, there is also something very special about sitting down and reading a print-based magazine or newspaper. I thoroughly enjoy at weekends reading the Sunday Times
and the Financial Times (FT) Weekend, and the Telegraph and FT during the week.
Their very likely long-term demise in print form is, therefore for me, somewhat depressing.
My local newspaper seller has stated quite emphatically that selling newspapers has 
little or no profit. The debate about the decline of newspapers, however, is not new –
it has been highlighted since televisions became a mainstream technology
and readily affordable in the 1970s.  
But am I becoming a rare breed – one who obtains psychological enjoyment from sitting down
with a nice cup of tea or good double espresso and reading the papers? I fear that I am.  
Should I lament the demise of newspapers or celebrate the rich content of the new e-formats?
Since the 1990s, aside from the loss of industrial media and the fragmentation caused by digital
and social media, the falling sales of newspapers has been caused by a number of critical
and interdependent factors:

The rise in free newspapers, such as the Metro and the London Evening Standard.
The emergence of important sources of news from the web, such as the Huffington Post.
Demographics: within an ageing population, young people simply do not secure their news
from papers and the older generation complain that newspapers are too expensive.
The price and investment involved in generating articles, printing and distribution print media.
The web’s dominance in classified advertising e.g  Gumtree and Craigslist,
hence loss of vital sustaining revenue from newspapers.
Numerous news sources and the growing popularity of tablets and smartphones
as vehicles for accessing news and information.
The growing disinterest of much of our own population in learning about global events.
Twitter’s rise in popularity and use has fostered a twitter-like superficiality
in accessing and understanding news.
Growth in the visual entertainment and news through platforms such as YouTube.

It is probably accurate and fair to state that the younger generation are less inclined
or motivated to read newspapers or paper-based journals. Indeed, a significant minority 
of the population are sadly disinterested in hard news, replete with geopolitical crises 
and the actions of nihilistic extremists in the Middle East. The malaise that many people feel towards global and national news is partly due to realisation that they themselves can do little 
to influence events and partly due to the sheer and overwhelming negativity of news. 
This of course may be the social, economic and geopolitical reality, 
but for many it is just too much “doom and gloom.”
When you factor in conspiracy theories in this context, newspapers as vectors of negativity
do not really stand much of chance in the long term.
It would, however, be somewhat misleading to suggest that younger people have significantly
less interest in news, per se. It may be more accurate to suggest that interests and accessibility
to information have changed so much over the last 15 years that priorities have shifted,
along with the way news is accessed, digested, and disseminated. What definitely seems to have changed is the shift away from in-depth analysis to concise articles, which highlight the saline points of interest. In the UK, in paper form, this has been manifested in the ‘I’ newspaper,
a sister publication of the Independent.  Many people under 40 that I have spoken with,
even in a professional capacity, seem less inclined to want to understand the factors and drivers behind a specific news event or the associated ramifications and interdependencies.
Apathy towards in-depth analysis of news and features is probably a function of technology-driven media, which constantly communicates stories in a twitter-like format.
It is after all, somewhat difficult to read an in-depth review on a smart phone.
We constantly check our messages, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts, amongst others,
and as slaves to social media, we simply do not have time to read in-depth reviews.
Loss of interest in newspapers and in-depth analysis has also been compounded by a growing interest in celebrity, gaming and superficial forms of entertainment, which normally distract
and insulate from the harsh reality of the world.  Quality newspapers and journals, such as the Economist, also offer more in-depth analysis of events and require their readers’ attention
for more than we’re used to.  This is also another reason why newsprint and many quality journals will eventually become digital. The question then arises that if people have 
less attention span than their parents and if the social media generation is less inclined to read
in-depth articles, then what is the future for digital news formats?
Will they adapt by offering more numerous and concise articles, in effect, ‘speed reads’
for their time-constrained consumers?
It is also fair to point out that if a generation of people who have experienced the thrills
of gaming through the web now have access to huge amounts of information and knowledge, then why would they wish to read newspapers and economic/political journals? 
Much of this information is available for free in places such as Wikipedia, YouTube 
or through dedicated blogs.
Why would you want to limit your experience to a static two-dimensional page in a newspaper about two planes colliding, when you can actually experience the event visually on YouTube
and share it with friends and associates?
There is no real competition once one assimilates visual media.
There is no doubt that digital or e-versions of newspapers and journals provide
incredible opportunities to develop stories, create animation, and allow the reader
a much richer reading and learning experience.

So what do I conclude? I recognise that my desire and enjoyment in reading a quality newspaper
or journal is partly habit-based and partly rooted in the false security of the past. 
The halcyon days of reading current news in the form of a newspaper are clearly over.
But as someone who accepts Darwinian adaptation, even when badly applied to non-biological concepts, I just hope that digital formats embrace in-depth and contextual analysis. 
Digital formats should be able to take readers across a spectrum of analysis, allowing those
who wish to skim the surface as well as those who wish to fish deeper into the waters
the same sense of satisfaction.

John Dalton
Director of LSP

Why is it always the new generations fault?
I know more people in their early twenties like me that read than people of 40 and over.
My generation is more creative, inquisitive and interested in learning and in exploring
our own culture & heritage. We instigated the revival of vinyl record sales for example.
I'd also bet we march more on Westminster than this author.
If things are so awful, why did your generation let it happen?
This feels suspiciously similar to the repetitive mantra "your generation has it easy."
I heard that growing up as an adolescent during periods of historically low employment for young people, from a generation that walked straight out of university into a job and enjoyed the eighties boom, yet recklessly ruined the planet, ruined the economy and voted for Margaret Thatcher.

Introduction to Turbo Charged Reading YouTube
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To quote the Dr Seuss himself, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn; the more places you'll go.”

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Your opinions, experience and questions are welcome. M'reen